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Celia Deane-Drummond
What is Human Wisdom?: An Interrogation of Posthuman Futures in Transhuman Evolutionary Discourse


This paper uses transhuman claims for the evolutionary development of human persons through technology towards a superior species, Technosapiens or posthuman as a starting point for discussion about the meaning of human wisdom. I will suggest that transhumanity illuminates what human wisdom is by showing in a graphic way what it is not, and also why it is necessary to develop a strong notion of human wisdom, not only to safeguard the future of the human, but also to adjudicate where science is tempted towards scientism, or theology to dogmatism. While the basis for the claims of transhumanity rests on Enlightenment dreams of progress and humanist claims for the improvement of the human condition, the stress on the possibility of immortality through technology opens up a claim for a secularised account of eschatology and ‘ensoulment’ through computer technology. Transhumanist Nick Bostrom rejects the future as envisaged in biological evolutionary terms, while using the rhetoric of the ‘wisdom of nature’ in order to win public support. This paper will seek to develop an evolutionary account of human wisdom that weaves in a theological appreciation of the meaning of wisdom as virtue, drawing particularly on the thought of Thomas Aquinas. An exploration of the meaning of wisdom in Hebrew and New Testament thought shows clearly how transhuman goals for the future evolution of human to the posthuman express the opposite of wisdom, and in some sense acts as a counterfoil to wisdom in contemporary culture. In this case the theological wisdom that is sought is that which enables and fosters human relationships with God and other creatures. It is also conscious of social and political implications and ethical responsibility towards others. Transhumanity, on the other hand, seems to adhere to an individualism that uses technology in order to escape from the natural world, and present a portrait of the human that is severely diminished as a result. On the other hand, the practical wisdom that Aquinas develops gives insights into how best to respond theologically to the practical demands for technological progress through the manipulation of human becoming. Finally, I will argue that the ability for humans to grow in wisdom is best considered theologically through a Christological model, where humanity seeks to become imago Christi through the grace of the Holy Spirit acting in human lives and in the life of the human community.

Professor Celia Deane-Drummond holds a chair in theology and the biological sciences at the University of Chester and is Director of the Centre for Religion and the Biosciences that she founded in 2002.  She graduated in Natural Sciences from Cambridge University and obtained a doctorate in plant physiology at Reading University prior to two postdoctoral fellowships at the University of British Columbia and Cambridge University.  She subsequently took up a lectureship in plant physiology at Durham University prior to turning her attention more fully to theological study, obtaining a degree and then a doctorate in theology from Manchester University.

During her scientific career, she lectured both nationally and internationally and published over thirty scientific articles.  Since then, she has published numerous articles, books, edited collections and contributions to books, focusing particularly on the engagement of theology and the biological sciences, but with a particular interest in exploring its usefulness in practical, ethical discourse.  Her more recent books include Creation through Wisdom (T & T Clark, 2000), Brave New World (Continuum, 2003) ReOrdering Nature (Continuum 2003), The Ethics of Nature (Blackwells, 2004) Wonder and Wisdom: Conversations in Science, Spirituality and Theology (Templeton Foundation Press, 2006), Genetics and Christian Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2006) and Future Perfect: God, Medicine and Human Identity, edited with Peter Scott (Continuum, 2006).


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